Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Success - What Is It?

I now people who believe that success is having a single hit the top of the music charts. Or complete a sell out tour. Others who believe it is about making six figures each year. Or own a big house, two cars, have kids at University and about to retire.

Clearly success means different thing to different people. We can all define what success means to us and have successesses each and every day! What it great for some may mean nothing for others. It could be something seemingly small to most but represents a major breakthrough for that person. Being able to stand up. Leaving the house. Speaking with a particular person. Perhaps even speaking at all!

So why do I ask?

Well, in the entertainment arena, when discussing things like volume of work, types of gigs, marketing campaigns, fees earned and so on, it's essential to remember the same things. What is total success for one may be merely the starting point for another. We cannot judge. So when someone says: "I'm getting a gig every couple of weeks now" it isn't appropriate to say "Is that all?".

The success of anything can only be measured against expectations, desires and needs.
Once we know the benchmarks we can evaluate how much of a success something has been.

What's this got to do with you?

A lot! The purpose of this post is to simply give you some food for thought. To awaken you to the whole idea of success and perhaps, with the end of this year looming, to think about goals and goal achievement for the coming new year. More about that very soon!

So here are some questions to think about:

Q1: You are a Face Painter and at a party you create ten of the absolute best designs they have ever seen. The kids love their faces and their parents think they are wonderful too. Have you been a success?

A1: That depends! It depends upon the brief, the agreement you made with your client. IF you only painted those ten and there were ten more who wanted but didn't get painted - and your brief was to paint them all - you have failed! However wonderful the limited results were, that's only a job half done, and the sadness and tears no doubt created a problem and made it worse than not being there at all!

Q2: You've designed and put up a website. It talks a lot about who you are and what you have done and shows some great photographs of many of the parties and events you've worked at. Many friends say the site is great, it's colorful, exciting and easy to look around. Is the site a success?

A2: Again, there is no way of telling from this. You may feel it's a success because you had to learn about site design, struggle with templates, uploads, source code etc and you achieved something you've always wanted to do. So in tat sense, perhaps it is. But whether the 'site' is a succes will depend on exactly what is the intended role, the purpose of the site and whether it will achieve that consistently over time.

For example, if the site is 'merely' a 'vanity site, a portfolio, a showcase whose only role is to diplay work to people sent directly there, then only comments about navigation and usabiliy will be relevant. However, if there is an intention for the site to be found by search engines, and offered up in the results pages for people sarching for artistes like you in your market - then the success can only be measured by testing the search engine results for the keywords that market will use. Achieving this will means having to apply very different design criteria to the site pages. We must know the intention to be able to judge the success.

One more example

Q3: You gave up your full time job and started to work solely as an entertainer. You have brought in enough work to just cover your bills, your outgoings. Because of the recession, work is getting harder to pull in and there are certainly no guarantees. Things look fine(ish) in the coming months but rising costs mean that some bills get harder and harder to meet. In fact, there's a possibility that you may have to change motor vehicles to a small one that's cheaper to run and tighten your belt in a couple of other areas too. Is this a success story?

A3: I'm going to leave it there for now and ask YOU what YOU think! IS this a success story? Make a comment below and I'll reveal what I think next time. Until then...

... I wish you all the success you desire and deserve

John Gordon
Founder APE


How To Use Google Alerts And Increase Your Business

There was a short discussion on a forum recently about Google Alerts. I said that I am continually surprised how performers who want to get more business aren’t using the wide range of free tools that are available to help them!

Whilst guessing may be the way some prefer, I’d rather know just who is mentioning me on other Blogs or sites and what they are saying. Or exactly which other sites are bookmarking me or linking to me and to what pages. But I couldn’t do this without Delicious or StumbleUpon or Technorati or the Link: Modifier in Yahoo!

Anyway … I received requests in double figures to spill the beans about Google Alerts and how you might use them to benefit your business. So, before I start, I guess I should say that what you’ll now read is just what APE is all about. It’s an article for Academy for Professional Entertainers members who want to know how to increase their visibility and pull in more prospects and convert them into lifelong paying customers. All explained in a way that is relevant for you and in a join-the-dots manner so you can take immediate action and get closer to your goals. I am continually writing articles just like this on topics you must know about and put into action before your competitors do!

Google Alerts – What Are They?
Essentially they are results of Google using Web Intelligence to track the web using your personal selected searches and sending you the results by email (or RSS feed). It’s like a free online ‘clipping’ service.

You can limit your searches to News, Blogs, Webs, Video or Groups or Comprehensive across all of the above. Bear in mind that you’ll only get results from the latest entries that appear in the top ten search results.

You’ll see that you have a choice of frequency, either As It Happens, Daily or Weekly.

They are clearly flagged in the email so you can filter them easily to a special Inbox folder.

Why Is This Useful?
Many reasons. It’s a great way to stay ahead of others and be informed first. You can hear the news before your local newspapers or TV!

An example: if you register and request info on “Snazaroo facepaints”, Google will send you an email with the web addresses and the information of pages it has found with updated info.

Reputation / Vanity Search
Of course you must start by tracking your own personal name, business name and company names. Then when you get a mention, you can respond with a thank you or a correction or addition.

Google Alerts can also be used to track incoming links to your websites. In the search terms field just add the ‘link: operator’ you use in search engines here and you’ll get an alert every time someone links to your site and that link is indexed by Google. Cool.

Brand Management
Track you name and You need visibility in all the right places, so track them and see where you get mentions, and where you don’t! Don’t forget to include your Blogs, Facebook pages, Squidoo Lenses and other sites.

Hopefully you do use article marketing and this is an easy way to automatically keep track of where they have been syndicated to and reprinted. Create an alert for each article title, ebook title or book title.

Industry Research
Any organisation, club, forum or convention or fair that you are involved with can be tracked so that you keep up to date with any changes, additions or announcements …. so that you can then blog or tweet about and become an invaluable resource.

Firstly, and most obviously, you would set alerts for the topic of your niche so as to get notified about what’s happening in that niche web-wise. Think of this as web intelligence.

When you use it wisely, you can be the first the announce breaking news to your communities.

When you sign up for keywords or key phrases related to your market, you’ll get a daily dose of news, blog posts and other web info related to that industry. Then use the info not just to monitor your market but to start threads, offer links and post the latest news. This is great if you have clients and customers in a community on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Competitive Research
Who is talking about your competitors? Who is talking about your clients? Find out with these alerts! Track competitor’s company name and get updates how they are positioned or discussed so you can counter with bigger efforts.

Client Research
What are your existing clients up to? Have there been key personnel or policy changes? Have they published a report of an event yet? Track all this and more with Alerts on your major clients.

Link Building / Increase Site Traffic
By mining Google Alerts for sites related to your top keywords you can find websites in your market place and then see which sites are linking to those sites!

Another great idea concerns keyword ranking. Suppose you want to rank highly for ‘Face Painting Ideas’. Set up an alert to be notified every time a new page or blog entry is indexed for that phrase. Then post a response that contributes and use your keywords in the name field. This ‘defaults’ to your url and you therefore get a backlink.

Create alerts for your domain and blog domain and you’ll be alerted when you receive a mention. No need to include the www.

Comments / Backlinks
Building backlinks is a high priority in your SEO work, and this can be helped by automating this exercise. Google Alerts can send you backlink opportunities every day for free! By keeping track of your topics you’ll discover when new content is available.

This is a great way to find linking partners to establish backlinks.
As you know, these provide really valuable backlinks to your Blog. So when you receive an alert that a Blog is using one of your keyphrases, visit the Blog and make a comment to get a backlink. Don’t forget to use the keyword in the name section and the correct url of the pages you want to optimise.

By setting up, say, “kid’s parties” “leave a comment” it will send you all blogs in that niche where you can leave comments.

Lead Research
Research clients you would like to work for. Look out for expansion, closures, job changes, account gains etc, any online activity. This gives you valuable insight into who they are talking to and who is talking about them. In today’s I learned about an article that was published by an Article site that was new to me. This is pure gold ~ if you know how to drive viral traffic to your site!

Lead Generation
I hope you scan your local media for news of potential new venues, events and other happenings that may provide marketing and work opportunities. Google Alerts provide a way to do that online too so that you can scan news for “restaurant opening” or “new shop” or “company launches Coventry”.

If you want to find out which companies are hiring entertainments, create alerts for “company celebration Coventry” or “business celebration Coventry” or “Coventry awards dinner” and so on.

Local Events
Clearly any Alert involving you local companies, venues, towns, celebrities etc will keep you informed as to what is happening locally you should be aware of.

Product Research
Getting Google Alerts to conduct searches for say "how to do temporary tattoos?" Now with this term you’ll only get a handful of results. But that could mean there’s a gap in the market for an ebook, a course or specialist website. An alert for “how to face paint?” brings in 383,000 and you’ll be notified as more change or are added.

New Content
Get alerts for you topic and seminars, podcasts, webinars, white papers and so on. For example “pregnant moms webinars”. This provides you with great ideas and info for Blog content, Twitter posts, status reports on Facebook etc.

Advanced Alert Searches
Use advanced search options and search operators

You can use the same Google Keyword Search tricks as you’d use in a search engine ie use +,-,””, or, not or link:, site: ). This will bring you more accurate results ie

+keyword = exact keyword match only

facepaint +party will limit mentions to parties.
“juggle” will also find “juggling” and “juggler” but +juggle will only yield juggle results.

Exact Key Phrase Search
This means that it’ll offer all the words in that phrase, but not the exact phrase.

To do that, simply put the phrase in double quotes.

Alternate Keyword
Use “OR” between words (in capitals) ie “face OR body paint”

“John Gordon” OR “Gordon John” location:UK

A tilde in front will return related terms:

~balloon twisting would include related terms

Single site on single topic notification:
“party entertainment”

To Get Publicity
Once you have an alert about a review of your product / service, publish an excerpt on your blog or site and link to the full review. If there is an article or interview again post a summary with a link to the full article.

If you do get a blog mention, propose that you do an online interview or a Q&A session or write an article as ‘guest blogger’.

If you get a good review, ask them to repeat their comments on your Blog.

Build lists of sites where you can submit your Press Releases or reach out to a journalist or editor.

Find journalists covering your topic to your media list. Clearly anyone who has an article published on that topic is likely to do so again, so include them on your distribution list and send them news releases, tip sheets, and pitch article and segment ideas to stay in front of them. Then they’ll think of you as a resource when they need one with your knowledge, experience and credentials.

Well, that’s it. They are a phenomenal way to get free notifications on anything and everything. Google lets you create up to 1000 alerts. You may have to experiment with Google Alerts for a few days before choosing one that delivers the most meaningful results for you. But once you set these up you’ll have your own early warnings, your own clippings, your own team of researchers all of which you can use to get more ideas, more leads, more traffic, more prospects, more bookings and more income.

So head here now and sign up!

John Gordon
Founder APE


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sports Stars Lack Loyalty

I’ve just read about Jenson Button, newly crowned world champion, agreeing to join McLaren and partner Lewis Hamilton in an all-British line-up for the 2010 season.
So Jenson has turned his back on Brawn (now owned by Mercedes), the team built from the ashes of Honda. What would have caused the move? Whether is will be good, racing alongside Hamilton and defending his title, we’ll have to see.

But sport is full of people changing teams, changing loyalties. How can they do that? How can they turn the loyalty they surely are expected to show, on and off? One minute they’d risk life and limb for their team, and then next they could be supporting another team and battling against their former colleagues and object of their loyalty.

Are YOU Loyal?

So what about your loyalty? Do you have any? Are you expected to? How about clients and agents you work for. Wouldn’t they expect you to not work for a competing organisation? Could you attract visitors and customers to one venue and then attract them away and elsewhere the following week?

Are Customers Loyal To You?

How about your customers? Are they loyal to you? You work for them, deliver more than they expect, exceed your brief but next time they book someone else. A competing performer. Is that OK? How does it feel? Are they being disloyal or is it all in the game?

Aren’t they free at all times to be on the lookout for a similar service but one that’s perhaps better, faster, cheaper, more versatile or better meets whatever criteria they desire? What if they met someone like this … would you feel they’d forgotten about you? All the good things you did?

What if you competitors have discovered just how to find your clients? How to spy on the competition (you), to find your keywords and use them in a better way? What if they obtained a list of all your valuable website links and added the same ones to their site? Maybe they have now made contact with your prospects, your clients and customers and learned how to continue communication with them, nurture them so that THEY are ‘top of their mind’ in the future.

Doesn’t this mean your existing customers won’t remain loyal and will exercise their freedom of choice and move to the supplier or team that suits them next season?

What can you do about it?

I’ll tell you … inside APE!

Founder APE